New Luce soldier fought in the Opium Wars

Opium wars medal
Opium wars medal

Creetown resident George Boyle is the proud owner of a very special solid silver medal presented to his ancestor in 1861 after he fought in the Second Opium War in China.

Sapper John Boyle served with the 10th Company Royal Engineers out in China having signed up and set out to see the world from his home in New Luce. John Boyle survived the war and returned to New Luce where he died, although there is no headstone in the graveyard. George believes the family originally came to New Luce from Ireland.

The Second China War Medal was issued by the British Government in 1861 to members of the British Army and Royal Navy who took part in the Second Opium War of 1856 to 1860 against China. The medal was designed by William Wyon. It show a coat of arms and ‘China’ engraved on one side and Queen Victoria’s head in profile on the reverse. John Boyle’s name and the details of his regiment are engraved on the rim.

The Second Opium War, the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the British Empire and the Second French Empire against the Qing Empire of China. It was fought over similar issues as the First Opium War.

The Opium Wars were armed conflicts between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1911/12. The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War was fought by Britain and France against China. In each case the foreign powers were victorious and gained commercial privileges and legal and territorial concessions in China. The conflicts marked the start of the era of unequal treaties and other inroads on Qing sovereignty that helped weaken and ultimately topple the dynasty in favour of republican China in the early 20th century.

The Opium Wars arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade. Foreign traders (primarily British) had been illegally exporting opium mainly from India to China since the 18th century, but that trade grew dramatically from about 1820. The resulting widespread addiction in China was causing serious social and economic disruption there. In March 1839 the Chinese government confiscated and destroyed more than 20,000 chests of opium — some 1,400 tons of the drug — that were warehoused at Canton (Guangzhou) by British merchants.